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Recently, someone asked the question How can I convince people that the use of a different word for the death of a woman is wrong because we are all equal?. This question sparked several comment chains about the off-topicness or on-topicness of the question. Since comments should be used for improving answers, not debates, let's move the discussion to this question instead.

Should this question be closed? Why?

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    Is there a reason you didn't wait for consensus on this topic and decided to post a question that falls entirely under what is discussed here? – JAD Sep 18 '17 at 5:05
  • @JarkoDubbeldam yes there is. The question that is being debates is incredibly vague. I wanted to see what a more specific question would look like. When deciding on topicality, it's helpful to have several examples before making decisions. Otherwise you're just talking about hypotheticals. – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 5:08
  • I have to admit, I have no idea why this question is receiving downvotes. Surely this is an important discussion to have? – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 5:09
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Questions such as this must not rely on asking for help in creating an actual argument for the person asking. We are not here to further the person's political/religious/personal goals, we are here to help people improve their interpersonal skills.

So, I'd like to pull out an old and much used question here, the vegan question.

How to ask a vegan to stop telling me about veganism because I am not interested in it?

This question isn't asking us to make an argument for why veganism is bad or why the OP isn't going to be a vegan, it's asking how to get the vegans to stop pestering the OP when they are eating a non-vegan lunch.

This, is fine. As Hamlet, I think, would say, what sets the vegan question apart from the one this question is about is that it's specific about the situation. It's about coworkers who are regularly approaching the OP about his eating habits.

The question at hand isn't about any specific person. It could be about a journalist (but would that be IPS if you never talk with them in person?) or a friend/coworker/family member... which would be an IPS issue.

But I'd like to introduce a rule that I think we should consider. We are not here to be copy editors. We are not here to redraft emails, write speeches, tell you what to say. We're here to help people determine for themselves the best way to phrase something; to give advice for researching how to find the arguments you need. We're not here to come up with the argument or to put words in mouths.

If the goal of a question is "tell me what to say" or "re/write my email for me" - we should not answer these questions. These are the equivalent of the Stack Overflow "Give me teh codez" questions.


So, as is, the question is unclear and if the OP really just wants us to draft their argument for them, it should stay closed, but closed as "off topic".

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    The OP's question is grandstanding. It's no different than if I were to ask, "How can I convince everyone that Trump is stupid, not smart?" – anongoodnurse Sep 18 '17 at 3:47
  • @anongoodnurse but if you were to ask: "I often have political conversations with my brother, who supports Trump. I find Trump immoral for reasons one, two, and three. When I explain this, my brother tends to ignore my arguments. (Detailed description of the interaction between the OP and the brother follows). How can I better express my opinion and get my brother to see my point of view? I feel like I am being ignored? --- In my mind this would make a great question for the site. – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 3:59
  • @Hamlet - I disagree; that would be still asking too vague/broad a question, but have at it! – anongoodnurse Sep 18 '17 at 4:01
  • @anongoodnurse "I disagree; that would be still asking too vague/broad a question, but have at it!" OK, why? – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 4:04
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Convincing others about a specific political viewpoint?

I think we can find books written on that. So they're not a fit for SE's Q&A format, as I understand it. It would help to check out Politics Stack Exchange meanwhile to learn what sort of politics-related questions are okay for SE.

Look at all the political campaigns, the promises, the debates and stuff that goes on during elections. They're all done to convince others that the candidate has a good political viewpoint and wants others to help them implement them.

I say, "off-topic" or "too broad" is okay for this type of questions.

  • Books written on a single specific Italian word created recently? – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:30
  • @Catija I'm not touching on any Italian words. You missed the point. – NVZ Sep 18 '17 at 5:32
  • The question is specifically about such a question. You can't entirely ignore the question that spawned a meta discussion in an answer on that meta question. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:34
  • @Catija You're saying this question is entirely about politically convincing others about the use of Italian language? What does that have to do with anything? Other answers already touch on that. My answer is applicable to all questions about trying to politically convince others, be it about language or any other political matter. – NVZ Sep 18 '17 at 5:38
  • You're answering a question that wasn't asked. This question is about a specific question, not about a broad type of question. If you want to answer the broad question, you need to first ask it. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:42
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    @catija with op creating a new question to prove his point, I don't think this discussion is about a specific question anymore. – JAD Sep 18 '17 at 5:51
  • @JarkoDubbeldam You do know that Hamlet isn't the author of the original question, right? The comments on that question included some from a CM, so bringing the discussion to meta was actually a good idea, closed or not. Whether this should have been a broader question is up to Hamlet. We need to answer questions as asked, otherwise finding answers is impossible. If we use a question about a specific question to settle policy this site, in an extremely broad way (all discussions of political viewpoints), no one will ever find the policy. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:57
  • @Catija : here, on meta, the title of the OP is Should this question about convincing others about a specific political viewpoint be closed? Why?. Then, the content is completely different and talks about another question. Just for that, according to the SE rules, the title/question has either to be edited or closed IMHO. Then, creating a "false" question just to prove someone wrong ranges, to say the less, from questionable to grandstanding, with provocative in the middle. When NVZ answers the OP according to the title, he's right on spot (politics), don't you think? – OldPadawan Sep 18 '17 at 7:28
  • @OldPadawan Um... how is the title not representative of the question? That question is a political issue. Gender equality is political. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 12:13
  • @Catija : well... I didn't see the post about Italy/homicide as a political one, but as an IPS one (off-topic ? O-B? doesn't really matter...) that could lead into political arguments or nit-picking. YMMV. But if the community sees it that way, fine with me :) FWIW: I'm not crazy either about the post "politics / H.C - D.T / emails") – OldPadawan Sep 18 '17 at 12:21
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The question should be closed, not because it's about politics, but because it doesn't contain enough detail.

As apaul34208 pointed out in a comment, having productive conversations about political topics is absolutely an interpersonal skill. Learning to understand the viewpoints of others is also an interpersonal skill. We should be able to ask and answer questions about these issues.

The problem with the question is that it asks for advice for how to "persuade" people, but it doesn't explain who the OP is trying to persuade, or what the OP has already tried doing. Questions about persuading an entire country--hopefully it's obvious that such a question is so complex that it deserves a book, not a Stack Exchange answer. A question about the time I tried to have a political conversation with my friend, with a description of what I remember saying and her response, that asks for advice about if there's a way to word my points that keeps her from storming off--I think that would make a great question on this site, even if it involves politics. A question about a time when I interacted with staff in a politician's office? In my mind that would also make a great question.

If there's one thing we know, its that questions work best when they're about a specific example. If a question is specific, then it will get answers specific to the question. If a question is broad, then as we've seen, there's wiggle room to post an answer that's not actually about interpersonal skills, but about the rationale behind a political issue, and still claim that it answers the question. Make questions specific and the political debates we've been having... tend to go away. (If it means anything, Shog agrees with me.)

There are plenty of interpersonal situations that also involve politics. So long as the politics is there for the sake of the interpersonal, rather than the interpersonal being a segway into the politics, there isn't anything to worry about.

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    If the OP asked how he could sound more convincing when supporting a specific argument about a topic of choice (without expecting people to agree with him), then it would be on topic but he's basically asking how to convince people that they are wrong and he's right. I understand where he is coming from and I may agree with him but it's still off topic to me. And too broad like you said. – Tycho's Nose Sep 18 '17 at 2:14
  • @Tycho'sNose to be completely honest, I have no idea what point you're making here. – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 2:35
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    Considering a number of recent meta debates about reasons for close voting, and looking at the first sentence of this answer ["The question should be closed, not because it's about politics, but because it doesn't contain enough detail"] I am convinced we would benefit from creating a new close-reason called "not enough detail" to be used when a Q is on-topic, clear and not too broad, but lacks the detail to be satisfactorily answered at present. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 6:07
  • @Hamlet What don't you understand? There is a difference between convincing people in general that their point of view is wrong than being successful at using arguments to talk about his point of view. – Tycho's Nose Sep 18 '17 at 10:30
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I am philosophically opposed to closing any question that is not blatantly off-topic or otherwise clearly deserving of closure under any other close-reason, but members who were quick to close some other borderline questions here should simply rush to close this question you linked, because it is not about interpersonal skills as we have defined by clear consensus; it is too broad and also not clear what interpersonal issue OP wants to address (because the only real person in it is OP and it takes 2 people to make an issue inter-personal -- OP wants to convince society at large, which is not interpersonal but political, so this is basically a political question); answers are very likely to be primarily opinion-based; it is also potentially inflammatory and divisive, introducing the type of debate that we don't need here.

And this question is still open and has been answered.

So if you want to protect the quality of content on this site, go on and close it for any one of many reasons before casting close votes against borderline cases. Since so many members are dedicated to close-voting here I should've expected to see this question closed like already.


Update: the Q referenced in this meta Q got duly closed a few minutes after I had posted this meta answer. Not because of this answer, of course, but probably because of the attention generated by this meta question.

  • "because it is not about interpersonal skills as we have defined by clear consensus" could you explain why? "I am philosophically opposed to closing any question that is not blatantly off-topic" OK, fantastic, but how is that relevant to this question? – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 5:00
  • This Q is not about interpersonal skills because it does not refer to a specific interpersonal issue that needs addressing. OP wants to convince society at large, whuch is not interpersonal but political. This is one question that really deserved to be closed, @Hamlet but (contd.) – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:08
  • (contd.) a recent Q was closed for no good reason, reopened without substantial editing to the body of the content after a third-party member raised this meta Q and promptly answered by a close-voter who did not vote to reppen. I am philosophically opposed to close-voting except a Q blatantly off-topic as this one certainly is. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:09
  • May I quote you back @Hamlet: "When I explain this, my brother tends to ignore my arguments. (Detailed description of the interaction between the OP and the brother follows). How can I better express my opinion and get my brother to see my point of view? I feel like I am being ignored? -- In my mind this would make a great question" -- the issue is no longer political as such but a question of discussion between you and your brother on a (admittedly political) topic of disagreement, asking for strategies to improve interpersonal communication which as you said makes it on-topic for IPS.SE! – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:19
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    I'm sorry but this viewpoint simply is unsustainable on Stack Exchange. If it's what you personally hold to, fine but this site can only work if we're careful about the quality of questions asked here. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:32
  • You need not agree with my opinion on close voting. You are entitled to your opinion as is any other member, but close voting should be consistent. Which it generally is here, more than on another site like English.SE, but I have been seeing some trends towards hasty and unjustified close-voting. Not in this case, though, and you said it right: "(...) this site can only work if we're careful about the quality of questions asked here." That is why we must first promptly close blatantly off-topic questions, @Catija, such as the one referenced here. Which is what I said in my answer. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:38
  • Off topic has nothing to do with quality. A question can be beautifully written and clear and narrow... and still be off topic. "How can I talk to women? (No additional details)" is completely on topic but utterly fails to be sufficiently detailed or narrow enough to actually answer. We can not only close off topic questions. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:46
  • May I clarify that by off-topic I meant any post that clearly deserves to be closed under any one of the close-reasons, not as a matter of opinion, such that any reasonable third-party user will not contest the closure or ask for reasons. Such as this question referenced in this meta post. I was using 'off topic' as an umbrella term for 'close-reasons', forgetting that 'off-topic' is itself a close-reason with a specific meaning in the context of SE. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:49
  • You need to fix that, then. Because that means something completely different. – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 5:50
  • Now edited my answer to clarify, @Catija. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 5:51
  • Considering a number of recent meta debates about reasons for close voting, and looking at the first sentence of Hamlet's answer ["The question should be closed, not because it's about politics, but because it doesn't contain enough detail"] I am convinced we would benefit from creating a new close-reason called "not enough detail" to be used when a Q is on-topic, clear and not too broad, but lacks the detail to be satisfactorily answered at present. Could moderators do anything with that, @Catija? – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 6:06
  • Not without meta consensus. It needs to be discussed and we need to decide on the appropriate wording. In general, yes, the moderators can do it. It's an important part of the beta process - identifying these close reasons, drafting them and getting consensus on them. I think a "lacking details" close reason is much needed. See my answer here: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1717/36 – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 6:18
  • Thanks @Catija. I feel that many questions are now being closed as either 'too broad' or 'unclear' when the real reason (which if possible to be applied would convince third-party members and therefore not be contested) is 'lacking relevant detail to enable users to write good answers.' – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 8:00
  • @EnglishStudent 'lacking relevant detail to enable users to write good answers" that is what too broad and unclear mean. Regarding people closing questions too quickly: see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/98022/… – user288 Sep 18 '17 at 14:22
  • Let us say a question is on-topic, clear and not too broad, @Hamlet. That means its focus is properly narrow and interpersonal, and a reasonable user will not at all be confused as to what exactly is the problem. Haven't you seen many Q where OP still needs to add plenty of details to enable users to give a comprehensive custom answer? In such cases it seems inappropriate to close the question temporarily ('put on hold' is the euphemism) as either 'too broad' or 'unclear' although we have been using these reasons. So I think a new close-reason 'needs more detail' would exactly fit the case. – English Student Sep 18 '17 at 14:30

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